Think you need to skip using sunscreen in order to boost vitamin D levels? That it’s safe to tan as long as you wear sunscreen? That skin cancer isn’t really a big deal? Here are 6 myths about sun protection that make leading skin doctors cringe – plus the facts you must know to safeguard your skin, your good looks and your health.
Myth: A ‘base tan’ will protect me
Dermatologists agree that there’s no such thing as a safe tan. When your cells are exposed to UV light, they produce more melanin, the pigment that colors your skin, which is why you tan. But this is a sign that damage has already been done, not protection against future sun exposure. In fact, a “base tan” provides the SPF equivalent of about a 4. By comparison, a white T-shirt gives you more coverage—about an SPF 7.
Myth: 80% of harmful sun exposure happened before I turned 18, so the damage is already done
The latest thinking shows that you get closer to just 25% of total sun exposure by age 18. Further, experts say revamping your sun habits at any age is a smart move. It’s the same as smoking cigarettes—no matter how much damage you’ve done, it’s always good to stop. While it’s true that melanoma is associated with childhood sunburns, the sun exposure that accumulates over a lifetime is associated with other skin cancers — not to mention wrinkles, thinning skin, dark spots, and broken capillary veins on the skin.
Myth: I have dark skin, so I won’t burn
Absolutely false, say skin care experts. Many people with more pigment in their skin will have a lower skin cancer risk, but they’re not immune to sunburn or sun damage. One study found that up to 30% of darker-skinned ethnic groups reported at least one sunburn in the previous year. Skin cancer is frequently diagnosed later in people of color, perhaps because of the misconception that they are not at risk. Singer Bob Marley, for example, died of melanoma on his toe that was misdiagnosed as a soccer injury.
Myth: Anything above SPF 15 is a waste
The FDA is still debating the merits of super-high SPFs, but many dermatologists agree that there are meaningful differences between SPF 15, 30, and 50, especially because we’re just so bad at applying sunscreen properly. That includes both applying too little in the first place and not reapplying often enough. Dermatologists recommend you reapply every 2 hours when you’re at the beach or pool, and most recommend a minimum SPF 30 for everyday and SPF 50 for long periods outdoors.
Myth: I need sun to get enough vitamin D
This is a common misconception. You need much less time in the sun than you might think in order to make adequate levels of vitamin D. After 15 minutes or so, the system that produces vitamin D from sunlight overloads and production stops, one expert explains. If this didn’t happen, your vitamin D levels would quickly become toxic! And being tan isn’t a good indicator of healthy vitamin D levels. One classic study of Hawaiian surfers found that although all participants were tanned, many were still vitamin-D deficient. Getting vitamin D from a balance of foods, supplements and sun exposure is the best method.
Myth: Skin cancer isn’t that big a deal
Thankfully, many skin cancers — when caught early and removed promptly — aren’t life-threatening. But assuming you can just get rid of a cancerous mole and move on is dangerous. While non-melanoma skin cancer typically doesn’t travel throughout the body, it’s still cancer, and it will continue to destroy your skin and invade the tissues if it’s not removed. Careful prevention is the only way to enjoy the sun safely without harming skin or risking the development of cancer.
Dr. Farole cares about your skin and your good health
As an experienced oral and maxillofacial surgeon caring for thousands of patients in the Philadelphia area, Dr. Anthony Farole provides a range of services – from cosmetic facial surgery to Botox to dermabrasion and more. Dr. Farole encourages you to remember that beauty is much more than skin deep. Beautifying your skin truly begins with caring for it each and every day, which means knowing the facts about sunscreen, sun protection and lifelong health.
Questions about cosmetic facial surgery, wrinkle removal and related procedures? Call Dr. Farole’s office in Bala Cynwyd today for a personalized consultation.